Almost half of Rape Crisis centres across England and Wales are under threat of closure.
Forty-two per cent of the charity’s 46 member organisations – a network of independently run outposts that sit under the Rape Crisis umbrella - have no funding confirmed beyond March 2016. They provide specialist support to women and girls who have experiences sexual violence or abuse, from immediate crisis work to long term support.
The lack of confirmed funding jeopardises this work and could put thousands of women at risk.
Rape Crisis currently has a waiting list of 3,500, meaning women and girls can be forced to wait up to six months for help. Ninety-four per cent of people who use its adult services are women.
The news comes on the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which aims to raise awareness around rape and domestic violence as human rights violations. In the UK, it's referred to as White Ribbon Day.
Professor Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, previously identified the risks posed for under-funding women’s services. In her 2014 report, which assessed the UK’s response to violence against women and girls, she recommended: ‘The UK Government should urgently evaluate the way women’s support services are funded and then act to ensure a network of women-centred services are available to all”.
On March 3 this year, David Cameron said sexual exploitation was a ‘national threat’ and should be treated by police on the same scale as terrorism and organised crime.
This year is the 30th anniversary of London’s oldest and largest Rape Crisis centre, the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre in South London).
The charity, which also runs the National Rape Crisis Helpline, recently revealed that it is receiving unprecedented numbers of calls, speaking to 5,000 women and girls each year. Its advocacy service, which supports women and girls through the criminal justice process, had more referrals from the police in the first half of this year than it did for the whole of 2014.
A spokesperson for Rape Crisis England and Wales said: "Our members' services are threatened on an unprecedented scale. Local commissioners are failing to prioritise specialist support for survivors of sexual violence so at this point we have 3,500 women and girls on our waiting list while 42 per cent of our members have no funding confirmed at all after March 2016, leaving survivors with uncertain support".
Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, added: “We are deeply concerned that 42 per cent of Rape Crisis England and Wales’s member organisations have no funding confirmed beyond March. ”
"This demonstrates the erosion of these vital services and the need for government to secure stable funding and clear commissioning processes".
The news follows a spate of domestic violence service closures. On October 30, charity Eaves - which specialised in helping UK victims of trafficking, prostitution and sexual violence - announced it was folding. While male domestic abuse charity Mankind only has confirmed funding until January 2016.